Elon Musk has asked a US judge to dismiss a case against him, brought by a British diver who was involved in the rescue of the Thai boys stuck in a cave, whom he called a “pedo” on Twitter.
Musk’s lawyers said their client’s comments about Vernon Unsworth were free speech protected by the US constitution’s first amendment even if they lacked any factual basis.
They also said Musk’s “over-the-top” comments came amid a “schoolyard spat on social media”, including Twitter, where participants “expect to read opinions, not facts”, and that no one could have reasonably believed they were truthful.
Musk called Unsworth a “pedo guy” to his 22 million Twitter followers, and later apologised. He also urged a BuzzFeed News reporter in an 30 August email to investigate Unsworth and “stop defending child rapists”. Unsworth denies all claims against him by Musk.
He said he became a target after rescue divers declined to use a mini-submarine offered by Musk’s SpaceX rocket company. Unsworth told CNN the offer was a “PR stunt” and the device would not have worked.
L Lin Wood, a lawyer for Unsworth, rejected Musk’s defense, saying it would effectively doom all lawsuits over alleged false and defamatory attacks on reputation published online.
“Mr Musk does not let the facts or well-established law get in the way of his novel but inaccurate contentions in his motion to dismiss. I am confident the trial court will likewise reject this fanciful position.”
A hearing is set for 1st April 2019.